Pak’s ruling coalition led by PML-N, oppostion PTI ready for indirect dialogue

Islamabad: The ruling coalition led by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the opposition Pakis­tan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have formed panels to engage in indirect dialogue, hinting that the ice has started to melt following more than a year of simmering tensions between the two political sides amidst the economic crisis, a media report said on Monday.

The impasse between the two warring parties was broken by Jamaat-e-Islam (JI) chief Sirajul Haq, who held separate meetings with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and PTI chief Imran Khan on Saturday and reported a “positive response” from both sides for holding talks on the issue of elections.

Now, both parties — instead of engaging in a direct dialogue — will route their talks through the JI.

In a positive response to the “consensus offensive” of the Jamaat-e-Islami, the PML-N tasked Ayaz Sadiq and Saad Rafique to hold talks while the PTI formed a three-member panel com prising Pervez Khattak, Mehmoodur Rashid, and Ejaz Chaudhry for the task.

The Dawn newspaper reported sources in PML-N as saying that Sadiq and Rafique were given a go-ahead to approach the JI for talks. However, the PTI also reiterated its stance of seeking a date for the general elections.

Senator Ejaz Chaudhry told the Dawn that PTI had begun consultations to take all opposition parties into confidence over elections across the country.

Chaudhry said the PTI already had meetings with the JI, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), and the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA).

“We have met and urged all political parties (outside the ruling coalition) to join hands and put up resistance against the PDM that is avoiding elections,” he added. Acknowledging that 70-year-old Khan said he would not talk to the “looters of national wealth” and a similar attitude was being shown by the ruling coalition, Chaudhry explained the PTI wanted to hold dialogue in Parliament.

“The PTI wants to join the parliament, reclaim the opposition leader position, and unanimously pass a one-time constitutional amendment to hold early elections in the country,” Chaudhry said.

When approached, Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed said the meeting between cricketer-turned-politician Khan and Sirajul Haq had evolved a consensus that the severe political deadlock in the country should be ended through a dialogue.

He said the JI had done some homework after the PTI team comprising Asad Umer and Senator Chaudhry had met its leadership two weeks ago before it went to meet Shehbaz.

“All the parties may keep sticking to their respective points of view but it was high time that political parties sho w prudence to find a middle ground to save the country and people from the worst-ever year-long political and economic deadlock,” Rasheed added.

While PTI leaders term Imran-Siraj meeting a major development to break the deadlock among major political parties, the JI emir had suggested the formation of a committee to develop a larger consensus for the holding of elections in the country.

Both PTI and JI are in agreement to keep the door of consultations on a regular basis open, they added. The report also said the Ji, on the other hand, was likely to convene a multi-party conference (MPC) after Eidul Fitr with the one-point agenda of deciding a date for holding general elections across the country on a single day.

The proposed multi-party moot would try to convince the ruling coalition to agree to hold general elections before October, while the PTI would be persuaded to drop its demand for conducting the electoral exercise (particularly in Punjab) on May 14. JI information secretary Qaiser Sharif said the venue and date for the proposed MPC would be finalised after initial consultations with different parties on the issue.

“When the JI will contact all political parties and be able to develop a consensus to hold a grand dialogue on one-point agenda elections in one go in the country, only then the JI will be happy to host an MPC,” Sharif asserted. “JI emir Siraj has urged Shehbaz Sharif and Imran Khan to show some flexibility and agree on an election date a couple of months earlier and later, respectively, against their existing inflexible stance,” the JI leader said.

He said Haq had already announced that he would be happy to host a prospective MPC at his party’s headquarters. Sirajul Haq is likely to call on Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Asif Ali Zardari after Eid as contacts with the PML-N and PTI have already been made for the purpose.

It may be mentioned that the PPP formed a three-man body comprising Senator Yousuf Raza Gillani, Federal Minister for Commerce Syed Naveed Qamar and PM’s Adviser on Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan Qamar Zaman Kaira last week to “engage with allies in the coalition government to reach a consensus on dialogue with the PTI, the report said. Pakistan is currently in the grip of political and economic instability, compounded by the bitter tension between the judiciary and executive over the date of elections in the Punjab province.